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The Dirty 30: What's Your House Hiding?

Do I have your attention? Are your listening to me? Because I keep beating the drum, people. The antique & collectible market is heating up. Whatever the reason, be it nostalgia or just getting your green on, the fact is, collectors are back at it. What could this mean to you? A few extra bucks in your spare time or simply converting to cash those lost treasures hiding in the closets, attics and basements of America.

My hope is today’s "Dirty 30" just might inspire you to brave a few mothballs, clear out the cubbies or begin the family scavenger hunt.

Have a quick surf through the today’s list. I’ll be curious to find out if you don’t already own one or more of these potential hidden gems.

1. Games

What? Yes…. its a fact that vintage board games, as well as the retro handheld video games are highly demanded in the second-hand market. An original 1933 Charles Darrow Edition of Monopoly recently sold at auction for $146,500. And sure, this is a super rare variation but to illustrate much more recent examples, such as the 2013 Monopoly South Park Edition is fetching over $200. The fact is, there are so many board games out there, that today command higher prices than their original retail. Many after only a few years as they become out of print and nostalgic to their generation.

Tip: Always double-check to verify a game is complete before you put it up for sale. You may have forgot why your mom put in in the attic. You ate one of the dice… With the electric handheld vintage games, inspect the condition of the battery compartment.

2. First Edition Books

Rare books are highly prized and sought after. Many today believe they’ve gone the way of the Dodo. Its quite the contrary. The fact is people have been unknowingly discarding them. Adding to scarcity. It seems the move to digital is driving up, the real thing. Sites like Biblio, Abe’s and Worthpoint can help find & value your editions. Condition, demand and scarcity are the driving forces. Book have several other factors, such as, is it am Advanced Reading Copy, a First Edition, a Rare edition, a signed copy, and so on. I just know there are hidden gems everywhere and many some cases, being eaten by silverfish. What ever the case, take some time and have a look at those "scratch off lottery tickets."

3. Hubley Cast-Iron Doorstops

Want to make gold out of iron? You don’t need to be an Alchemist. You just need to do a little homework. Perhaps you have a few old doorstops from your folks’ place. If so study them a bit. One of those could be a cast-iron doorstop, a century or more old. They did survived everything. Period originals are typically $200-300 but some of the original early casting can really perform. They come in all shapes and sizes: cats, dogs, lady-figurines, penguins, vases, horses. Whatever the shape, the real one’s are hidden bucks!

4. First-Gen Gaming Consoles

There is something that original gaming systems had that today’s just don’t. Lifelike graphics and AI doesn’t stand a chance against the gaming innovations of the past. There is a reason why Retro Video game consoles, those from the 70s and 80s, are bagging bucks.

Recently a rare Nintendo PlayStation Prototype brought $360,000. You may still have that old Intellivision, Atari, Vectrex or Colecovision hiding in the closet. Isn’t it time to give them a new home?

An original copy of the fan-favorite Super Mario Bros recently sold at auction for over $100,000.

5. Loving Cups

Sharing love and wine amongst the generations of wedding guests, loving cups have been around for centuries. Art Nouveau, Bohemian, George III, Mid-Century, Rococo, Romantic Era, and Victorian all have examples that are highly prized. They signified the unity of the people gathered. Later on, the form became a common prize for achievers, and presented as trophies and elegant ceremonies.

Made of silver, earth, enamel, wood, or glass, an expert can always tell its price from the design. But is you ever come across an offbeat 3-handled cups….well, a few have sold for millions.

(Tip: Learn all about Hallmarks (my video on the subject) or pickup an identification book. Other unique engravings and etchings can be clues to their age, as well.)

6. Vinyl Albums

Extinction was imminent for vinyl records before hard-core collectors decided to drop the needle again. Vinyl needs no introduction to the world of collectors, despite all the new tech. Artist, demand & scarcity drives value. Sealed or an artist autograph can add serious premiums. True connoisseurs will tell you, even slight label variations can greatly influence price as well. Picture discs and picture sleeves can be added bonuses. Others to be on the look out for are limited editions, foreign editions, and withdrawn releases. I can just see you raiding your parents’ stash now. Want to see the crazies…check out the video or blog post I did a few months back on the subject. (VIDEO POST)

7. Art Deco Clocks

Got nothing on the list so far? Worry not…we move on. Maybe you have some Art Deco. The style attracts not just its collectors but today’s interior decorators, as well. Are we about to be living again in the Roaring ‘20s. Can we all call it the screaming 2020s so far? One of the more common finds in the genre are the deco period clocks. These are still highly sought after. Age, condition, aesthetics, and maker name are all key factors in the price of ‘these “Gatsby” era clocks. The look is what they really want. After all, we carry our clocks today. The mantles or a good steampunk looking nautical clock tend to be pricier models versus you Deco bedside, but note, the materials matter. And they come in everything…from brass, onyx, glass, wood, Bakelite, or even sharkskin, that’s right, sharkskin!

8. Suiteki Calligraphy Water Dropper

Designed to dispense small drops of water, these little porcelain masterpieces gloat that ‘form-meet-function’ niche. The dying art of East Asian calligraphy is the trinity of water, inkstick, & inkstone. These tiny vessels are so diverse. Typically made of porcelain, they can be jar-like, animal-shaped, two-handled, or spouted. The tell is two orifices that control the air-water balance.

Quite simplistic and yet so functional. Stumbling upon one of these while thrifting or a yard sailing might just mean a small fortune. Especially if you find a period example in good shape. It could really mean $2K plus in your bank account.

9. Stamps

Some believe stamps are one of those "needle in the haystack" kind of finds, and I say true! Well, for the most part, but if you find the right one’s. Sky’s the limit. An Inverted Jenny stamp form World War I sold in 2016 for $1,351,250…typically they only fetch a mere $200,000…not bad.

(Tip: If you find a collection, seek out a reputable philatelist…check reviews and references. You want to be in the know here.)

10. Perfume Bottles

Glass-blown Victorian Perfume bottles topped off with silver are in high demand. Edwardian silver or gold examples with ornate engravings can fetch you a killing. The old Atomizers from your grandmother’s powder room can surprise you too. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard of these all being tossed away, just prior to me coming to do an appraisal.

Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Classic Apothecary and Cameo Glass Perfume Bottles tend to be overlooked by most. I hope no more….

11. Jadeite Ball Jugs

Treasured by collectors and home-makers alike today, these 30s’ favorites attract wads of dough. Beware of fakes and reproductions, but you know if it was grandmas or not. They are prone to cracking too, so look closely. But not to worry. All that is what makes Jadeite Ball Jugs all the more valuable. Also, a quick google search will show you how identify the genuine and show you samples of the makers hallmarks.

The swirls and grooves seen in the original green milk glass is unique and not truly replicable. Several years back I found a Fire King Jadeite Ball Jug in the original box is a friends attic clean out. I got him $600 for it.

(Tip: original Jadeite jugs have some telltale signs, like certain dips, handle-fusing, etc. Google those before you set ‘sale’.)

12. Windsor Style Armchairs

Simplistic, these wooden elegances today serve as artifacts of luxury. Should you happen upon one amongst your furnishing or just collecting dust in your attic, even an older handmade reproduction can sell for $150 or more. But the 18th Century and Early 19th Examples can amaze !

(Tip: Measure your armchair before you post it online for sale. The original, New England models were about 17” in height. Later on the design was truncated to approx. 14.5”. So the height of your Windsor armchair can be a telltale sign.)

13. Cellphones

Okay, I bet you think I’ve lost it here, but hear me out. As most know, The original Cellphones hit the market in 1984, looking much like ivory bricks. Or Miami Vice Style. But hear this…Motorola’s DynaTAC 8000X can be worth thousands today. Other earlier models, span the first two decades, in working-condition, can command thousands of dollars. Did you save yours?

Surveys suggest at least half of American homes have a vintage phone, but don’t know that yet. Look them up and learn all the desired makes and models. They are out there.

(Tip: Manuals and other accessories that came with most electronic devices add to the value in the secondary market.)

14. Comic Books

This comic book craze is hear to stay.

They have almost become financial instruments in their own right. I can’t hand you $2 Million Dollars in Cash, but I can hand you a graded 1939 Action Comic Superman No. 1. There are so many hidden gems out their in this genre, I suggest grabbing the latest issue of Overstreet’s Comic Price Guide and thumbing thru.

It’s not just the first appearances of the Super Heroes that makes it rain. I plan to coordinate with a dear friend that’s a true expert in this field and write and shoot a deeper dive, crash course in to comics. Coming soon…

15. Coins

Coins have been collected now for centuries yet every day, more are hoards are discovered. Your uncles change jar for instance could be hiding $3000 Lincoln Wheat Penny. Or perhaps a $500 Three-Legged Buffalo Nickel or just be 10 pounds of sterling silver quarters or $2500. It’s a fact that world coinage may soon become a bygone era. I think this will only add to the mystic of the collectible.

If you like treasure hunting, world coins may be for you too. There is a lot of foreign currency in junk drawers, cigar boxes and dresser drawers across America. Most have no idea what they are, what they are worth and sell or give away. The world has literally minted tons upon tons of these wondrous possible finds.

16. Blue Glass Mason Fruit Jars

If you are new at selling collectibles, this is the kind of think that might make your head explode. Some say the blue hue of these rare jars is from pre-WWI Russian manganese dioxide, a clarifier used in aqua-green glass….other say they used the sand from Lake Michigan….whatever it was, it left them with a now highly prized blue hue.

If you have one of the original survivors of early 20th Century, you might just have $4000 on your hands.

(Tip: More of a warning, reproduction abound…probably one of the most faked kitchen collectibles I have ever seen, but the real one’s are out there.)

17. Mechanical Banks

The original Mechanical Banks from the late 19th Century are commanding just astounding money these days. We know even see the reproductions from the 1960s bringing respectable money based on the quality of the recasting. You have to remember, these have been prized and copied now for 100+ years so they made a lot of copies and a 50 year old copy can fool an untrained eye.

But again, even the reproduction can now fetch $300-500 as who can afford some of these real deals. So if you got’em, sell’em !

18. Bull’s Eye mirrors and Girandole mirrors

Do you happen to have an ornate convex mirror with an Eagle on top and Candle arms flanking the sides? Perhaps hiding in the attic? Well, they are still treasured today.

The 17th century European and 18th-century American federal styles can both be worth hefty sums. Price can swell with age, aesthetics, size, quality, and grandeur of girandoles.

Antique memorabilia like these are now a super-hot market. Refurbished or not, it might be time to sell.

19. Christmas Ornaments

Contrary to popular belief, you just might be the lucky one if you inherited the family’s Christmas decorations. Vintage & antique Christmas is hot and the selling season is just around the corner.

Recently, some egg-shaped kugels have sold online for up to $800. Glass-blown or molded baubles are priced aesthetically. But looks at my example on the right. $6500 for 1 Christmas Ball.

Vintage candle holders, cards, figurines, nativity collection, tree toppers, stars can all bring (literally) stellar money !

(Tip: Try to find the age and makers of your ornament. Silver metal caps may say it is German or Czechoslovakian. Plaster Caps were used for pre-1900 German ornaments. American ornaments from 1942-1945 had paper cardboard caps.)

20. Fashion accessories

Fashion accessories have played a major role documenting beauty trends throughout the ages. Costume jewelry, watches, designer handbags, and all things couture tend to personify their perspective ages. These finds are quite prized on the second-hand market.

(Tip: Surf the web before you hit the oft-confusing waters of antique fashion – navigation may be smoother!)

21. Hand-blown Milk Glass Easter Eggs

Victorian Lent evenings were spent by ladies painting Milk Glass Easter Eggs. These were often painted in Spring or Easter themes. Perhaps you have a few of these keepsakes in your hand me downs.

These are $25 to $50 on eBay these days, but rise, closer to the holidays.

22. Hand-carved Duck or Goose Decoys

Don’t listen to quacks. The duck decoy you inherited might just be a golden goose. Apparently, many of these hand-carved wooden waterfowl are in high demand online. Collectors seem to adore them. You’re not going sport hunting, are you? Well, you can hunt for buyer….

And some decoys have sold for over well over $100,000 so you might just want to have someone take a look at that bird !

23. RCA Victor Radios

Victor Radios were the most iconic product of the Radio Corporation of America. A post-World War market saw sky-rocketed sales of RCA radios, horn speakers, consoles, pocket transistors, clock radios and so many more. Just about every home in America had one. Chances are, you inherited a mid-nineteenth century piece yourself. A check in the attic might pay off. Several old gadgets have a huge market. Phones, computers, radios, video game systems (and video games, too), or even vintage toasters have a market. Most outdated gizmos go on to be a future collectible.

24. Postcards

Here is one thing every estate seems to have….Old Postcards! If you have any of the older or more unique postcards, you might just have a few bucks. Don’t just toss those out with out have a look around online.

25. Tools

Come along now; let’s head to the barn or grandpa’s workshop and have a look. Old wood planes, measures, jewelry lathes, etc. all have demand.

26. Upside-down ‘Ball’ Mason Jars

To err is human, but to be favored by collectors! In the 1910s a molding error apparently stamped the logo of several dozen Ball Mason, upside-down. Consumers were dazzled with the new “design”. Thus, it became a “limited edition” in the markets. The fame still makes them prized collectibles. The upside-down alignment of the containers made them preferred as a dispenser for coffee grinders.

A lot of the batch has either gotten lost, broken, or worn over the decades. In exchange for an intact piece, you might just get net $1000.

(Tip: The Internet has all kinds of online illustrated guides that can help in finding the decade ‘Ball’ jars were made)

27. Vintage Cameras

Do the brands, Leica, Rolleiflex or Graflex ring a bell with you? Then hurry back to some closet, attic & basement foraging. You might have some serious bucks collecting dust. Vintage cameras that have seen and captured some good old days are back in business.

Stereo cameras, Instant cameras, Rangefinder cameras, and all kinds made by companies like Polaroid, Nikon capture the hearts of collectors. Before you drop off at Goodwill, check out the make and model number online

28. Lamps

Genies may be a myth, but the right antique lamp can grant you riches. Victorian, French & Italian chandeliers were luxury in their day so true antique versions are rare to find. But most homes had one, if not several, Turn of the Century Table Lamps. If you find a Tiffany, Handel, Pairpoint or Roycroft, you might just be beyond pleasantly surprised.

29. Persian and other Oriental Rugs

The intricacy and mystique of hand-knotted rugs of the orient have made them prized in the West. Persian, Bokhara and Zeigler rugs are in high demand. Vibrant carpets sourced from Pakistan, Turkey, India, Uzbekistan, China, and Afghanistan are also super sought-after.

Knot-density, originality of material (camel hair, sheep wool, and other natural fibers), genuinity of natural dyes, are all important factors that determine the price. If the fringes of your oriental rug are part of the weave and not sewn-on; the rug is a “pukka”. Do not hesitate to bargain. You can always depend on websites to help identify phonies.

(Tip: All Persian rugs are Persian Oriental rugs, but not all Oriental rugs are Persian rugs.)

30. Musical Instruments

Did you take Sax in school? Play the flute, guitar, bassoon? Well, get it out and look it up. There is quite the demand for musical instruments.

I could list hundreds of examples, but lets just say, that old Selmer Sax might be $5000 or your dad’s old fender $10,000 plus. It’s all about make and model, but don’t you want to know?

Are you now motivated to go tear the house apart? I apologize if you make a mess. If you need a few organizing tips, I have you covered there or HERE... Or think you might need an appraiser….here's a post for that....or the video.

If you like this kind of stuff, you should subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch "Last Week at the Auction, The Series." Lots of Auction results, week in and week out.

All my best and post again soon.





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1 Comment

Mik Bus
Mik Bus
Oct 01, 2020

Excellent article. Hopefully many resellers will be bombarded by (potentially stupid) requests about "I understand my item is worth (this) what will you give me?...." :-)

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